The Frames @ Webster Hall, NYC [9/10/07]
There's no such thing as a bad Frames show. Unfortunately, however, increasingly of late there is such a thing as a middle-of-the-road Frames show. That's what we got last night.
Granted, there were moments of utter beauty and emotion ("Your Face", and "The Cost", which has really grown on me since I first heard it), but there were also moments where it felt that the band was essentially phoning it in. Well, let me amend that last statement - I don't think the band "phoned it in", per say, but I think they're falling too much into a groove of playing the same songs every show to the point where they're just not sounding as fresh and vibrant as they should. Part of that is probably the fact that I've seen the band 6 times in the last 13 month, but a big part is probably the fact that they've been playing essentially the same setlist over and over during that time. The band desperately needs to start incorporating other songs from its playbook. Songs like "Friends and Foe", "Plateau", "Angel at My Table" and "Dream Awake" are fantastic songs, but I can't remember the last time I saw them played live. Changing up the setlist would breathe a ton of new life into their set.
A couple of other annoying things from the show. First, despite the fact that we got there early (8:30pm, just 30 minutes after doors opened), essentially the entire floor of Webster Hall was already covered with people sitting. As most people who go to shows somewhat regularly realize, this is a real problem. It takes the already limited space in the club and essentially cuts it to 1/3 the space - a seated person takes up as much floorspace as about 2-3 people (especially if you're sitting with a group of friends). As a result, despite that the club was probably only about 1/3 full when we got there, we couldn't get anywhere near the stage. (It also didn't help that the show was at Webster Hall - i.e., the only club [FN] I've ever been to that doesn't have an ever-present "path" you can follow to the front of the room.)
Second, true to its shitty reputation, Webster Hall refused to set their air conditioner to anything under about 80 degrees. The show was sold out and crowded, and many of us were dying of heat. Just awful. That said, the sound was much better than I'm used to for Webster, so at least they're not totally incompetent anymore.
Finally, as I alluded to a couple of months ago, it's clear that the Frames' audience is growing as a result of Glen's appearance in the movie Once. While I'm thrilled for his success, it's already making a noticeable difference in the crowds showing up for the show. I think it had something to do with why people were sitting (i.e., in my experience the only people who sit at shows are young kids (20 and younger) and folks who've never been to a club show before). It was most obvious during the encore, though, when Glen brought out Marketa Irglova to perform two songs from the Once soundtrack. People literally lost their shit when she came out. My friend Brian and I were flabbergasted. Sure, I love the songs Glen did with Marketa, but people were freaking out when she came on stage. Just indescribable.
So that's it. I got to see one of my favorite bands in my favorite city on Earth, so at the end of the day who am I to complain? A couple of pics follow the footnote.
[FN] = A caveat - Irving Plaza used to have a "path" (you had to hug the wall on the right side, then cut left in front of the door to the backstage area and you'd find yourself up by the stage). They killed that when they started fencing off the right-hand wall for bands to stash their gear. Now it's much, much harder to use that trick, though it still works if you get there before the room completely fills up.